England just want to be loved
March 4, 2011
England fly-half Toby Flood feels the pain © Getty Images
Despite a hugely successful start to their Six Nations campaign, England have shocked the sporting world by publicly admitting to overwhelming feelings of 'loneliness and isolation'.
England have begun this crucial Rugby World Cup year with a series of increasingly assured performances and, viewed externally, seem to be in fine fettle both on and off the field.
However, the RFU has revealed that its management, players and fans have been 'severely hurt' by recent disparaging comments from other nations and that the national game is suffering from 'depression'.
"Nobody likes us," said RFU spokesperson Jonathan Barker. "Let's not beat around the bush, they really don't. We may act like we revel in being hated, but we don't. At the end of the day when we take off the boots after a match we are just flesh and blood like everyone else. Sticks and stones hurt us, but so do nasty names."
Barker revealed that the sense of loneliness has become so severe that many players and RFU staff are undergoing some form of therapy to cope.
"We've been going around for years and years trying to keep our stiff upper lip," he said. "Making out we love being everyone's auld enemy, that we love to be the centre of everyone's bile and that it's an honour to be the team every one wants to beat.
"It's time we admitted that, sometimes, we just want to be loved. I mean, even our own press seem to enjoy disliking us. It's been hell since our 2003 World Cup win. The press have been so negative. How can we expect others to loves us when we can't even love ourselves?"
Barker revealed the decision to finally come clean to the public about the depression was made not long after French coach Marc Lièvremont gave his now-infamous pre-match interview in which he spoke of 'hating' the English.
"We acted like it was amusing when Lièvremont ripped into us," said one English player who wished to remain anonymous. "But it really upset me. I'm sorry Marc doesn't like our weather. And I wish we could have the same quality of life he claims the French and the Italians enjoy, but we can't. We don't have the climate and whatever else for that. But really, does he have to hate us? We aren't bad people are we? Can't we just be a 'World in Union' like that World Cup song? Can we at least strive for that? Is it too much to ask for a real brotherhood of rugby?"
The player went on to say that wins against Wales, Italy and France this past month have failed to dislodge the emptiness and despair that lingers over the English players in the dressing room after a match.
"Loneliness really is the most terrible poverty," said the player. "We feel so hollow in that dressing room, whether we win, lose or draw."
Top relationship expert and leading psychologist Dr. Andrew Richards claims that recent boastful statements by the likes of England fullback Ben Foden in which he spoke of Wales being like 'a little brother that needs to be put in his place' are simply masked cries for help.
"It's textbook stuff," he said. "In trying to mask their loneliness and sense of isolation they try to overcompensate by lashing out with lavish displays of defiance and anger. Why do you think Chris Ashton does those big swallow dives when he scores? He's simply covering up the team's collective feelings of alienation from the rest of the rugby world by strutting his stuff like a tough alpha male. Someone, anyone, really needs to come out and say that they like English rugby. Or at least say they don't hate it passionately."
The RFU are facing the problem head on and have hired a top consultancy firm to try to win back 'hearts and minds' with a 'Feel the Love Campaign'.
"We need to change ourselves, look in to the mirror," Richards said. "We must forgive and forget and try to see if by changing a few things perhaps our Celtic neighbours will be a little more friendly towards us. God knows I'm sick of sitting alone at IRB functions while the rest of the rugby world parties and jokes together on the other side of the room."
The 'Feel the Love' campaign is expected to kick off as soon as next month and may include the following:
Despite the public announcement from the RFU, no other national union has commented on the issue. Rumours are circulating that all non-English committee members of the IRB were having a 'cracking night out with mates' somewhere in Dublin and therefore unavailable for comment.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery
Monday Maul takes in retirement talk, England reshuffles, France's unfair advantage and Scotland's communication breakdown
John Griffiths takes an analytical look at Week 3 of ESPN Scrum's Fantasy Rugby game - who should you have picked?
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin